How fantasy sport is thriving with digital revolution in India

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Earlier this year, when India lost to New Zealand in World Cup semi-final, it wasn’t only team India that was playing, but over 70 million Indians who were hoping to get their strategies right in order to earn some real cash through a number of fantasy cricket leagues gaining ground in the country.

According to an estimate, over 120 million fans in India watched the semi-final match on their mobile device. The unprecedented growth of smartphones and high-speed internet usage in India has resulted in instant acceptance of fantasy sports which offer real cash in return to the users. With over 70 million active users in 2018, the total spend by Indians in 2018 amounted to $1.3 Billion (INR 11,800 Crores), making it one of the fastest-growing industries.

Fantasy Sports are usually compared to online lotteries & sports betting. However, the biggest difference between the two is the fact that fantasy tests a players’ sporting knowledge whereas sports betting tests their luck. Fantasy sports are based on how the players selected by an individual play in a particular game, whereas, betting depends on the real developments in a game or the result of the game.

A recent report by KPMG estimated the fantasy & betting market in India to be well over $150 Billion. A large part of this still remains unregulated and that provides huge opportunities for the startups in this space, that’s a reason why brands like Dream11, Mobile Premier League & 10Cric have made it huge in no time.

Both, fantasy brands and betting websites generate their money through registered players. The new age gaming platforms like dream11 work on a freemium model which allow the users to register and play some league without having to pay anything, however, to try their luck on bigger & popular leagues and to stand a chance to win money in return, a user has to pay.

Skills & Luck

According to the laws in India, the biggest differentiating factor between fantasy games and sports betting is the element of skill. Placing a wager on the outcome of a match is considered an aleatory event, the outcome of which is beyond the control of punters.

In fantasy sport, the result is influenced by the performance team that the user has selected using his expertise.

Disgruntled users of fantasy gaming platforms have taken legal recourse to retrieve their money, albeit with little success. The Punjab and Haryana High Court ruled in 2017 that a Dream11 game involved substantial degree of skill, and was therefore a legitimate business activity protected under Article 19(1) of the Constitution. In the absence of government regulation, disputes raised by users are settled by the companies themselves.

Unlike fantasy sports, betting and gambling on sports events is banned in different Indian states depending on the local laws. The colonial era Public Gambling Act, 1867 prohibits individuals or groups from engaging in ‘games of chance’ but implicitly allows ‘skill-based’ games involving money.

While cricket remains the primary money-spinner for such platforms, they have also diversified their portfolios to include other sports like basketball, hockey and tennis. Dream11 offers daily and season-long contests in sporting events like the NBA and the Pro Kabaddi League. BookMyShow backed Fantain lets users create fantasy football leagues.


The author of this article is Sudhanshu Mitra. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Bangalore Insider. 

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